It is not often that a premier and secretive institution like the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) ties up with a recycling outfit to share one of its technological innovations. But that was what happened when the institution known for its cutting-edge research in nuclear science signed an MoU last month with Mumbai-based Recyclekaro, a company which deals in e-waste and lithium-ion battery recycling.

The collaboration will leverage BARC’s advanced technology for the extraction of high-purity copper oxide nanoparticles from depopulated printed circuit boards (PCBs). According to Rajesh Gupta, Founder & Director, Recyclekaro, BARC was responding to a government guideline that research must also contribute to improve the efficiency of companies in metallurgy and in the recycling of e-waste which extracts precious metals like copper.

Roping in Recyclekaro

BARC zeroed in on Recyclekaro since it is an established e-waste and lithium-ion battery recycling company and has the technological capability to optimise the innovation.

So, what is the technology that BARC is providing Recyclekaro? Gupta explains the process in laymen’s terms. “In the conventional recycling method, we remove all the components through the hydrometallurgy technique (using aqueous solutions to recover metals). BARC has developed a novel resin that pulls out copper particles from PCBs. With this we can produce a value-added product — copper oxide nanoparticles — which commands a premium price in the market since it is useful in several industries including the manufacture of engines and aviation equipment.”

For a good part, recycling of e-waste involves handling printed circuit boards (PCBs) from discarded electronic goods. They contain 10-20 per cent copper. However, base copper and copper oxide have low commercial value. But copper oxide nanoparticles are much in demand and are currently imported. According to a BARC note, the “process developed is for specifically enabling environmentally concerned metal recyclers to achieve scaled-up production of high purity copper oxide nanoparticles in continuous mode operation from waste PCBs.”

The produced copper oxide nanoparticles hold immense potential as a catalyst for various industrial processes, antibacterial coatings for medical and electronic devices and sensors, as well as conductive inks and water purification. Recyclekaro hopes to tie up with companies such as HAL, BHEL and offer them copper nanoparticles in the days to come.